The Call Me Kat star explained that the entire team had been waiting on Jordan to show up to set that day, and then they heard the tragic news
At age 67, the beloved actor died in a car crash on Oct. 24 after suffering from "sudden cardiac dysfunction," PEOPLE confirmed.
"We were all at work and waiting for him to show up at work, so it was very, very, very complicated to have the whole crew there and the whole cast," Bialik, 47, told host Jennifer Hudson, who began the segment saying how "beautiful" she thought it was how they honored Jordan's "legacy and his memory" on the show by keeping his character alive.
"You know, we were a family," Bialik continued, adding that their tight-knit "COVID unit" was "one of the first shows back, actually, after the lockdown."
"We were all very close, and people knew Leslie Jordan as Leslie Jordan, not necessarily just as the character he played on our show. He's been in people's lives, especially during COVID. He was in people's Instagram feeds," Bialik recalled with a smile. "A lot of people really formed a real connection with him, and he loved that. He loved being approachable. He loved being loved."
"He was a beautiful soul," Hudson, 41, later acknowledged.
In January, it was announced that 30 Rock alum Jack McBrayer was joining the show as Gideon, the new hire at the cat café owned by Bialik's title character. The news, which was shared by TVLine, came after Jordan's character received his farewell in the form of an off-screen wedding in Tahiti and a special end-of-episode tribute from longtime friend Dolly Parton.
In a statement shared with PEOPLE after temporarily pausing filming, the network called Jordan "the kindest person you could ever imagine."
At the time of his death, Jordan's agent David Shaul shared a statement with PEOPLE about how special of a person and talent Jordan was known to be.
"The world is definitely a much darker place today without the love and light of Leslie Jordan," Shaul said in the statement. "Not only was he a mega talent and joy to work with, but he provided an emotional sanctuary to the nation at one of its most difficult times."
"What he lacked in height he made up for in generosity and greatness as a son, brother, artist, comedian, partner and human being," he added. "Knowing that he has left the world at the height of both his professional and personal life is the only solace one can have today."
"The love and light that Leslie shared will never go out and we invite you to share their memories and comfort each other during this time," an official Instagram post read the same day. "In the coming days we will be giving a glimpse of a project Leslie was really proud of and was looking forward to sharing with the world."
In addition to Call Me Kat, the character actor was famous for his scene-stealing roles in shows including Will & Grace and American Horror Story, and as Bialik noted, he found a new following amid the pandemic for his hilarious Instagram posts.
The key to entertaining, the Chattanooga, Tennessee-born comedian told PEOPLE in 2021, is, "You've got to have a very strong beginning. You've always got to have a punchline to end it with. It's the middle part that's hard."
When he died, the Call Me Kat creative team decided, " 'We want him to live forever,' " Bialik said on Tuesday of their decision to keep his character alive.
"It's a really hard thing to do. There's no right way to do it," she said, noting that their showrunners "really helped usher us through it."
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"But it was very emotional to decide, like, how do you grieve also while having to act as people grieving?" Bialik questioned, adding that the fact that they "break the fourth wall" on the show helped them to have some "grace about it."
"We knew we could talk right to people," she explained of the cathartic process, "and say, 'There's no way to make this what it's not: We lost our friend.' "
"I think this whole season, for us, feels like it's the season we lost Leslie. So yeah, it's been hard, and we're grateful to have gotten the opportunity to work with him the way we did, and in the time of his life we got to work with him," Bialik said.
The Jennifer Hudson Show airs weekdays in syndication (check local listings).
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